Avoid stressing out when partnering to get business services

Among the lessons I have learnt from the outsourcing business, I can state that it can easily turn into a headache for the involved parties. Even more important is knowing that the difficulties are not a necessary harm inherent to the business or the processes. There are eight very simple key points to avoid them.

Choosing the right BPO supplier: this choice is not only limited to being the cheapest or pleasant option. Besides having the essential components in terms of quality, coverage, availability, possibility of communication and warranty, it is important to search for a BPO supplier that has the capability of acting upon changing requirements related to the needs, and that can cover any other contingency accordingly.

Transparency in volumes and requirements: In several occasions, I have noticed that the operation volumes are minimized with the purpose of obtaining a fixed cheaper offer. It is vital to be clear on the size of the operation and on the expected growth during the period in which the process will be outsourced; in addition, the type of reports and the level of communication and interaction expected during the relationship must be considered.

Services agreement: This document is not just an essential requirement in the commercial relationship, but it also turns to be a guiding instrument in the relationship. It establishes and clearly states the details of the actions to be performed, either by the client as well as by the supplier, and the commitments that each party has to face. When possible, the agreement shall specify a full list of the possible services in such a way that it is a flexible document that can be adapted to the changing reality of the area.

The On-Boarding process: Regardless the existence of a full agreement, a know-each-other stage is needed, as well as specific agreements and the planning to start the rendering of the services. People who will be exchanging information on a daily basis are mainly responsible of establishing and documenting the consensus in the relationship, foreseeing the possible “crashes” in case the teams experience any changes.

Delivery schedule: All processes must be planned.  There is a daily exchange of information between the parties. They are expected to receive reports on time by the suppliers. Nonetheless, the client has the responsibility, as well, to provide the complete information on time. For example, a financial report cannot be delivered on day 1 if the information was available on day 31 at 10 pm. This mutual agreement of receivables must be planned taking into account that it is not just a repetitive process, but there are some aspects to be considered such as holidays, weekends and time zone changes. When the day is finishing in Asia, it is starting in America.

Escalation journey: It is important to know each party in the relationship and the function they have. We must always have a contingency or escalation plan for each party. For example, the person responsible for authorizing the payroll salaries must be defined. What happens if this person is out of the office or unavailable? Unexpected events DO happen and if we are not prepared, let’s hope it is not pay day.

Continuous communication: Being aware every day of the process status and the possible changes allow each party to have a common purpose and that can focus in achieving goals. Generally, we tend to do this exercise only when the client experiences an issue. Then, we try to look after solutions or just feedback negatively to the supplier. We must not wait until this happens. Both supplier and client must proactively search for operative and efficient improvements every time and let the counterpart know what the other perceives. I have heard the client many times complaining about the delivery of reports out of time, and many other times heard the client defending himself because the information was not delivered on time. The only way to prevent this type of misunderstandings is to have a clear, open, constant and positive communication between both parties.

Services assessment: All actions must be revised annually by both parties and in an objective level. They must refer to the agreement and the on-boarding process performed. It is very easy to be emotional and not take this exercise seriously.  Let´s do the assessment and share it with the supplier. They must check if any changes must be made regarding the agreed statements or the things stated for next year.

What else can be done to improve the experience of each party? Sometimes, after all is cleared, documented and checked on regards to the scope of the service and the schedule, the relationship is not satisfactory. It is necessary to suggest the establishment of an integrated teamwork.

The relationship client-suppliers must be understood as one team with the same purpose, an integration exercise and alignment must help the process to be more efficient. We are concerned about the organizational climate in our company and we must work towards it with all the resources we have assigned to this project.

For me, the key to success is the sensibility on the needs of both parties. In the end, we always mention a win-win relationship in which all the persons involved must be conscious about the implications of their work, to appreciate and congratulate not just one person but all the people involved in this project. It is necessary that the importance of achieving goals is clearly understood and that the shared effort reach the group purposes and, also, the individual ones.

The outsourcing process must be a long term relationship between two parties, where expectations must always be clear, formalizing agreements every time but being flexible and embracing the relationship with an open and proactive communication.

This article was written by Juan Carlos Alvarez, TMF Group North LatAm Regional Director, for the Colombian Empresarial & Laboral magazine. 

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